Described by World Magazine as Africa ‘s Charles Spurgeon, Conrad Mbewe is a man of God characterized by his love for preaching, writing and controversy. Twenty years ago, he gave up a successful career as a mining engineer to follow God’s call on his life. Having faithfully served as Senior Pastor of the Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka , Zambia for the last twenty years, his ministry has flourished and his congregation has grown numerically and spiritually. Mr. Mbewe and his wife have three children, while fostering several other young people in their home. Mr. Mbewe is the author of The Holy Spirit: His Person and Work and is a contributor to The Founders Journal. Mbewe is currently serving with Heartcry Missionary Society.
Text: Ephesians 2:4-8
If we lose sight of the backdrop of man’s deadness in sin, we will develop a superficial understanding of the gospel. We are not seeing Christ’s sheep but the Devil’s goats filling our churches today.
It is the opposite “but” that should explode in our lives. The power of God is at work in the salvation of souls. Indeed, we have seen how Paul likened it to the power of God which raised Jesus from the dead. Romans 1:4 “and through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power . . .” In that moment- when all the powers of hell have fought, they were clearly be shown to be off the mark. Omnipotence came into play, the tomb was rolled away, and Jesus rose–all through the almighty power of God. This is the same power we speak of in conversion.
Paul asks in Romans 6:1-4, “Should we go on sinning that grace may increase?” Paul offers the rest of the story. The work that God has done in conversion is such a powerful work that it cannot be reversed. God has transferred the Christian from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son. It is a realm where the power of God rules, the grace of God reigns and God is extending and expressing His will through His Spirit. There has been an actual work of God. We have been taken from the realm of sin and we are dead to that world. We are raised to newness of life (Romans 6:4). He is saying, “What happened to Jesus has happened to you.” The Christian is “in Christ.” So in the same way, count yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let’s break that down a little more and understand what it is that God does by His Spirit. First, God gives us sight and knowledge while making us aware of spiritual realities that at one time we were completely oblivious to. But when God, by His power and His Spirit, comes to do a work of saving grace, life is diffused into our soul. We begin to see what we never saw before. To borrow the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). Exactly what happened at the beginning of creation when God said, “Let there be light” and there was light is what happens to us in conversion. It is as though God has singled you out in the midst of an entire crowd, your entire past is brought before you and you cannot shake it off. It is as though it was staring at you in the mirror.
It is God the Holy Spirit opening the eyes and making spiritual realities as real as anything he has ever known. He realizes that God who is holy and just has given His own Son so that we might know mercy, grace, and love. The Holy Spirit also literally liberates us from the bondage to sin, which we see in Romans 6. The Christian cannot go on sinning. Why? He has been set free from sin. It is not a second experience. It was primarily because he responded to the gospel. Let’s go back to Romans 6, for the better we understand these realities, the better we will be. We must be willing to tell such persons in our church, “You are not saved.”
(Romans 6:15-19) You have gone from one enslavement to another, from sinfulness to righteousness and this is all a work of the Holy Spirit. You whole-heartedly obey the teaching which you have heard because God has opened our eyes, liberated us from sin and given us a new life. We can then say, “I once was lost, but now am found; once dead, but now alive.”
(Ephesians 2:6) Let us all admit that when you come to passages like this, there is a depth that you cannot fully comprehend. Paul is saying, “Conrad, even now, you are seated in the heavenly realms.” It blows my mind! One truth that comes to me is the reality that I am in the hands of Omnipotence. What God has begun, he will bring to completion until the day of Christ. He will indeed complete the work He has begun (Romans 8:29-30). Paul didn’t skip something when he went from justification to glorification. He is saying that glorification is sanctification in full-flower. That is why Paul can speak in terms of praying for the Ephesians that they may know the “riches of God’s glorious inheritance in the saints.” It is because you are seeing the work being done by divine Omnipotence. Have you seen the footprints of God the Holy Spirit in your conversion experience? Can you say, “I am not what I used to be. Something drastic has happened to me.” Paul is saying to you, “That work is not going to be aborted. Potentially you are already there in Christ, seated in the heavenlies. God is simply putting in the final screws. Already you ought to be standing in amazement of what God is doing.”
What is man’s workmanship? It is when you go into the room of a well-known artist who has been doing his job. You notice at his masterpieces and realize that this artist has gifts and a genius at work here. What Paul is saying here is we are not dealing with a human artist but a divine hand and every single Christian is a product of that divine power-every single one of them. Here on earth the work of God is not complete, but you wait until we hear the final blast of the angel’s trumpet. You wait until you see the ransomed throng marching into heaven. You wait until you see that glory shining brighter than the sun. Then you will see what otherwise cannot be apart from sovereign grace. What is it? It is God doing His work. We are His workmanship.
How does that come through on a day-to-day basis? I think it is important to look for it, because we can be caught up in the heavenly picture that we forget the practicality of it all. There are two immediate signs to enable you to see whether you are dealing with those who are being made alive. First, we see that of ongoing repentance. You see, when God makes us alive, together with Christ, we are genuinely sorry for sin. We change sides in the spiritual and moral warfare. Men and women that do not move from being slaves to sin to becoming slaves of righteousness are not converted. They may have repeated our prayers and have been sincere in doing so, but they are not converted. It is not enough that they have wept buckets; the question is whether they are still repenting today. It is whether they still see sin as an offense to God- a breach of God’s holiness. Not because sin upsets people, but because it is breaking the law of God. This is an extremely important sign. The true convert bows to the Word of God the way the seas bow to a moving ship. God’s will is supreme. We must refuse to content ourselves than anything less than an act of God.
The other is that of true faith in the living God. Faith is seeing Jesus for all that He is for us and savoring Him with our lives. It is seeing the holiness of God, the sinfulness of sin, the cost of following Christ and committing ones life to Him. The people of God should not reduce the pastor to a headmaster! I’m concerned about the fact that we are dealing here not with our work or our product, but the work of God the Holy Spirit. He has made us alive. Our eyes are opened. We can see and now our greatest desire in life is to know God, to love God, to serve God, to worship God and to be with Him forever.
May I plead with us to be conscious of this great power and plead for it in our preaching. God forgive us for every drop of self-confidence that remains in our being as we make our way up the pulpit steps! Oh that God would enable us to cry to Him, that He might work through an unworthy vessel such as I. Familiarity breeds contempt. Many go out from Bible colleges trembling and wondering if God could ever use him. We may have the right books, the right prayers, the right techniques and become familiar with the holy things of God. Let us not choose the kind of sinners we want. The work of conversion is not my work. If it was, I would limit it to my children, before their teenage years. Because I know it is the work of God, I can go to the city’s worst sinner and share with that person, knowing that if God is pleased that person will be in the Kingdom before long. Preaching the gospel is like placing fishing hooks into the lips of sinners.
There are men and women in the far country who are sworn enemies of the gospel- who are the filth of the earth- and we keep away from them because we are too dignified. Let us not leave out anyone from the sound of the gospel. Let us share with them again and again and pray that God would use this feeble vessel to bring these souls to God.
May I end on this note. Never, never get over the surprise that you are in God’s kingdom. Never! If you know your own heart, how prone to wonder it is, prone to leave the God you love, you should never get over the fact that you shouldn’t be here.